The Siberian Tiger
The Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), which is also less commonly called the Amur tiger, inhabits the Sikhote Alin Mountain region, although there is a small number of them in the Russian Far East too. The Siberian tiger is the largest subspecies of the cat family (felidae) alive today and is an endangered species that is at a high risk of extinction.
The felidae are the least likely to eat vegetable food matter of all the carnivores on the planet. Felids made their appearance about 25 million years ago.
Male Siberian tigers average about 195 cms and females about 175 cms. Their tails add another 90 to 100 cms to their length. These days, males weigh about 500 lbs and females just over half that, although there is evidence that tigers from earlier times were quite a bit larger and heavier. Large males could weigh 700 lbs and one exceptional animal as much as 850 lbs. It was 3.48 m or 11.4 feet long.
The Siberian tiger has to put up with extreme temperatures, ranging from ‘quite warm’ in the summer to bitterly cold in the winter, so their coat is fairly thick, although there are some variations in the thickness and colour of it. Often, the black stripes are browner than black and the ‘red’ is pale yellow to white, especially in the winter.
The majority of the wild tigers live in the mountain ranges, where they kill various species of deer and wild boar. They have often been reported to have killed and eaten bears (the brown more than the black bear). The tiger has even been known to mimic the bear’s call in order to attract it into a trap.
They do not present a threat to humans in the mountains. Attacks on humans is almost unheard of, but they have suffered from poaching, especially in China although Siberian tigers are a protected species in both countries.
These tigers can have a huge range of 1,000 km, so tracking and protecting them is very difficult if poachers are determined to kill a tiger for the (usually) Chinese ‘medicine’ market, not that any part of a tiger has been proven medicinally beneficial to humans or any other animal.
A healthy tiger population is the best way of reducing the number of wolves, not because the tigers eat wolves, but because tigers keep prey animal numbers down and wolves cannot compete with tigers. Female tigers raise their two to six cubs alone without any help from the male.
Tigers hunt by stealth, which means that they either creep up on their prey or lie in wait for them. The final attack usually consists of a fast sprint, a leap and a bit around the throat which will either throttle the prey of break its neck. A fully mature and hungry Siberian tiger can eat up to 60 lbs of meat in a single night.
I saw a wild Siberian tiger in the university grounds near St. Petersburg in the mid-1970’s. It was captured in the woods not 200 yards from the university, but it was such a rare occurrence that thousands of people visited it in its cage in the woods every day until it was airlifted back to a remote habitat. The most obvious thing about it was its size – huge. It was several feet longer than me and I am six feet tall.